June 16, 2024

Trump eyes witness stand as trial draws to close

Donald Trump’s trial on charges of covering up hush money payments to a porn star enters its closing stages Monday with the door still open to the former president taking the stand.

Most experts say it is highly unlikely he will testify in his watershed criminal trial, the first ever of a former US president, as it would expose him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination by prosecutors.

But on Thursday, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche raised the prospect his client could step up as a witness, telling the judge “that’s another decision we need to consider.”

Before any testimony by Trump, defense lawyers will first conclude their grilling of the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen.

Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer turned tormentor, recounted how he kept Trump informed about $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Over several days of questioning, Trump’s lawyers have set out to paint Cohen as a convicted criminal and a habitual liar, recalling his time in prison for tax fraud and lying to Congress.

Those arguments, among other grievances, have also been echoed outside the courthouse by an expanded entourage of Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, who have shown up to publicly back their party’s leader.

Cohen has said repeatedly he takes “responsibility” for his actions and has faced the consequences. Prior to the trial, including in his books, he had done little to hide his contempt for his former boss.

Blanche has striven to ruffle Cohen, who has a reputation for a temper that could hurt him on the stand, but the witness has stayed largely composed and on topic.

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